Ethiopia, a deeply fragmented African colossus

Ethiopia, a deeply fragmented African colossus
Ethiopia, a deeply fragmented African colossus

#Other countries : Ethiopia now considers itself at “war” against the dissident region of Tigray, where military operations were launched Wednesday, raising fears for the stability of this regional juggernaut populated by more than 100 million inhabitants.

Beyond Tigray, a powerful northern region that long dominated power structures in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is a deeply fragmented federal country, where there are multiple hotbeds of tension.

Here is an overview of the main forces facing Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner 2019:

A protesting Tigray

Tensions between Abiy and the leaders of Tigray skyrocketed after the latter’s organization of regional elections in September, an act of defiance against Addis Ababa, which considers the election “illegitimate”.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ethiopia postponed the elections, initially scheduled for August, and extended the terms of national and regional deputies, as well as that of Abiy. For this reason, the Tigrayan leaders no longer recognize his government as legitimate.


READ ALSO: Ethiopia on the brink of another civil war


Almost all of the seats were taken by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), which historically ruled the region.

A minority ethnic group among the 70 or so peoples who make up Ethiopia’s “ethnic federalism”, the Tigrayans represent only 6% of the population.

After leading the armed struggle against the communist Derg regime until its fall in 1991, the TPLF nevertheless dominated the ruling coalition in Addis Ababa for almost 30 years, until the accession of Abiy Ahmed in 2018. .

More recently, tensions with Addis Ababa have crystallized over control of military personnel and equipment in Tigray, which is home to a significant portion of the Ethiopian armed forces.

On Wednesday, Abiy accused the Tigray authorities of attacking two military bases in the region and launching a retaliatory military operation.


READ ALSO: Ethiopia: green light from Parliament for state of emergency imposed on Tigray


Since then, Tigray has been placed under a state of emergency and the two camps have mentioned a situation of “war”, but no precise information is currently available on the operations in progress.

A troubled Oromia

Abiy is Ethiopia’s first head of government from the country’s main ethnic group, the Oromo. But it is far from being unanimously supported in its Oromia region, which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa.

Oromo nationalists consider that he has not done enough to respond to the political and economic marginalization they believe they have suffered since the former domination of the Tigrayans.

Rights organizations denounce repressive abuses in Oromia since the arrival of Abiy, in particular in the context of the fight against the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an armed group accused of assassinations, attacks, robberies banks and kidnappings.


READ ALSO: War in Tigray: Ethiopia wants to be reassuring in the face of growing concerns


Tensions in Oromia took a particularly violent turn after the June murder of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer. Riots have left at least 160 dead and more than 9,000 people, including journalists and opposition leaders, have been arrested.

At the beginning of November, an attack attributed to the OLA by the regional authorities left at least 32 dead within the Amhara community, the second largest in the country.

A fragmented South

Several ethnic groups grouped together in the very diverse Region of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of the South (SNNPR) have long demanded more autonomy.

These demands saw a resurgence after the arrival of Abiy, who initially displayed a desire to democratize Ethiopian politics.


READ ALSO: Ethiopia: United States calls for “immediate” restoration of peace in Tigray


In a referendum in November 2019, the Sidama overwhelmingly supported the creation of their new region – which is becoming the 10th in the country.

The spotlight has more recently turned to the Wolaita area, whose residents want to emulate the Sidama, but have not yet held a referendum.

In August, at least 17 people were killed in the area after protests sparked by the arrest of a Wolaita political leader.

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